Basham at Sundance – 23/1/06


Tim meets The Beastie Boys!

There really is no place like Sundance. And I don’t mean that in a completely good way, either. Think about it. If your goal was to pick a place where industry people could all come together and watch new, independent films while networking and partying, would you pick a remote ski village in the middle of winter? Maybe walking up and down this K-2 mountain everyday to get to the house I’m staying in with five other people has something to do with my grumbling. On the other hand, as I’m writing this I’m staring out a picture window at a snow-covered pine valley that looks like something from Bing Crosby’s “Holiday Inn” when he first introduced “White Christmas”. And in spite of what people say about the festival becoming a star-gazing, over-blown, celebrity schmooze-fest, I’ve somehow been lucky enough to meet some truly good people. So maybe these film fanatics knew what they were doing after all.

On the other hand, I still have three days left.

Little Miss Sunshine
This year’s festival has its first big purchase. It’s being reported that Fox Searchlight has purchased the worldwide rights to “Little Miss Sunshine”, the story of the dysfunctional Hoover family who takes a pitfall-laden journey to California in a run-down VW van so seven-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin) can compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Unsuccessful motivational speaker Dad (Greg Kinnear), anxiety ridden Mom (Toni Collette), failed-suicide victim and brother Frank (Steve Carell), Nietzsche-worshipping son Dwayne who’s taken a vow of silence (Paul Dano) and heroin-snorting Grandpa (Alan Arkin) complete the dysfunction.

If the cast and storyline aren’t enough to hook you in, you have the beautifully hilarious and sometimes touching screenplay by newcomer Michael Arndt. And to complete the pleasant surprise, first-time feature film directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have taken a huge leap from their already successful careers as two of the best music video filmmakers today. Currently set for release this summer, the film’s first two showings drew standing O’s and included the attendance of the entire starring cast. Carell, who is already having a stellar year with films like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, revealed to the packed crowd at the Park City Library Theatre that when he told his wife the film was well-received she facetiously replied, “Yeah, you needed something good to happen.”

The improbable resolutions of the Hoover family’s conflicts are what give “Little Miss Sunshine” its heart. While there may be some mild comparisons to “National Lampoon’s Vacation”, “Sunshine” probes deeper into the family’s psyche but, at the same time, never takes itself too seriously. In fact, judging from tears of laughter elicited from the people around me, “serious” is the farthest thing from their minds.

Awesome, I F***kin’ Shot That
The Beastie Boys were always one of those bands I admired for their creativity but rarely took the time to listen to beyond their hits (Brass Monkey, Fight for Your Right To Party, Hey Ladies) in spite of 20 years of ground-breaking hip hop and rave performances. However, their Sundance premiere of “Awesome, I F***kin’ Shot That” was intriguing for reasons other than their music. For a 2004 October performance in Madison Square Garden, the band gave 50 digital video cameras to 50 lucky fans and asked them to film the performance. The only condition was to keep the cameras rolling no matter what. The result was a unique look at the Beastie Boys phenomenon in the manner of a lovely, bass-heavy concert film. “Were they pumping the bass?” was the first thing Beastie Boy/Director Adam Yauch, aka MCA, aka Nathanial Hornblower asked when I interviewed him, along with the rest of the band, after the screening. While Beastie fans will love the film, the average movie fans may find it mildly entertaining. Multiple views of a performance easily wear thin after the first 30 minutes, but it does demonstrate the incredible versatility of the band, including their lounge band act in the middle where they all expertly play their instruments as opposed to their creative, stage-roaming rap. And, if nothing else, pioneers such as The Beastie Boys deserve to have a film celebrating one of the most innovative forms in American music history.

Basham at Sundance – Report 1